Barns-Graham’s work through the 1950s comprised of abstract geometrical compositions inspired by the shapes and forms of the natural environment. This painting is one of a number of works inspired by the rocks at Porthgwarra, a cove in south-western Cornwall approached through a tunnel. Visible pencil lines reveal the precise geometry underpinning the composition.
Composition February I
Date of work
Oil paint and graphite on board 30.3 x 37.3 cm © Barns-Graham Trust
Born in St Andrews, Scotland, Wilhelmina Barns-Graham moved to St Ives in 1940, where she became an influential figure in the group of modernist artists based in the town. Her paintings fused abstraction with representational imagery, often inspired by the dramatic Cornish landscapes and other places she visited. She was concerned with capturing the emotion of a place; of describing not just the formal qualities of landscape but the feelings evoked. From the 1960s, her work became markedly abstract, defined by strong geometric forms and a powerful dynamism. Later paintings were freer and more expressionistic.